10 Minutes with Tipton is a new series on the Education Page. Students in the After School Education and Safety (ASES) Program at Tipton Elementary School take time to Zoom with individuals in the community to ask them questions about their jobs, lives and strategies they can use in their own lives to help them become college and career ready.
What is your job title/role in our community?
Dr. Claudia Habib, Porterville College president
Please tell us a little bit about yourself – Your background, where you grew up, your family.
“I have lived in the Central Valley for the last 34 years. First, I lived in Fresno for about 31 years and for over three years in Porterville. I came from Colombia, South America when I was 22 years old. I didn’t know I was going to stay here. I didn’t speak English, I didn’t have a job and I didn’t know what I was going to do, but one day I was watching television in Spanish and they talked about community college and that is where I went to learn English. I went to a community college and then I transferred to Fresno State. I went to school and trained to become an Interior Designer, which is what I worked as for nine years. After that, I got a teaching job at Fresno City College, which was the same school I learned English. I taught drafting for students who wanted to be architects, or designers, or do construction. After teaching for 10 years, I went into administration in different roles and now I’m president of a community college.”
What do you love about your career?
“What I love the most about working at the college is that I get to talk to students and learn about their lives, and hopefully, help them realize their dreams of going to school.”
When did you begin your career? Can you provide us with a career history?
“I went to school in the 1990s and in 1995, I earned a bachelor’s degree from Fresno State. I was a designer for nine years. In 2002, I started teaching in community college for 10 years before becoming an administrator. What is interesting is that you notice that my career and what I went to school for is one thing and what I’m doing today is different. Sometimes our careers change over time. Sometimes what we think we’re going to be when we grow up changes. Sometimes we think we will be going in a different direction and that’s OK. I never thought I was going to be a president of a college.”
What do you dislike about your career?
“That sometimes we have too many meetings. Isn’t that true? I like to get things done, but it’s through the meetings that we get things done.”
Would you encourage others to pursue your career?
“I would say that I would encourage people like you, young people like you, to pursue your dream. Whatever your career is, you dream about what you want to be when you grow up — I hope you pursue it — and whatever you decide to do, you do it well. And as time passes, you are flexible for any new experiences that are unexpected and help you grow. There is no degree to become president. It is the experiences that came over my career that led me there.”
What is something that might surprise members of the public (either about you, or your career)?
“I think people would be surprised that I had been an interior designer before getting into academia. I never practiced residential design, I did ‘facilities design,’ so I help with the space planning of offices such as medical offices, educational facilities, hospitals, I even worked in the design of a planetarium.”
What advice do you have for young people who might be pursuing your line of work?
“To work hard, to read a lot, to talk to other people and get to know their stories. Everybody has a story and it’s very important to listen to other people’s stories.”
What is a project you (or the district) have/has been working on this year that you are proud of that you would like to share with the public?
“I can tell you that during COVID we have worked very hard to support our students because everybody has suffered losses — loss of income, loss of work, loss of family members and we have been able to provide resources for our students whether to help their families, or to help them get through school. We had a lot of food drives, provided technology for students, and we gave them financial aid. Because going to school is expensive, we helped them with resources so they can attend college.”
Anything else you would like to add?
“I like being with students. I am inspired everyday. In fact, today I heard the story of a former student who is now a professional, who was an undocumented student. She inspired me because she was so strong and so courageous so when I hear the stories of my students, I am excited to do what I do.
I love this community. I love Porterville. Everyone in the K-12 system and at the college are working together to help our students succeed.”
Another thought from Dr. Habib
“Students who go to high school always hear about big names of universities and it is great if you can go there, but then a lot of people don’t talk about community college and the idea that you can come here and transfer to a CSU and have a beautiful career and a successful career. The idea that if students are in high school and they don’t get accepted to a big university they can’t be successful is not true. They have a great opportunity to start their education at a community college. Education is a part of your journey, but it’s a combination of hard work, and curiosity. You can get far even when you go to your local school.”
Valeria Molina Perez and Nancy Torres are both sixth-graders at Tipton Elementary School in the After School Education and Safety (ASES) Program. Valeria enjoys playing sports. Nancy enjoys playing soccer.